A lone wolf (Jue Huang) returns home after a twenty year absence armed with a modicum of fatalistic narration with which to underscore his search for a love lost. Director Bi Gan credits Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity as his inspiration for this Chinese puzzler. A protagonist carting around a photo of a woman, except there's a cigarette burn where her face once beamed, is indeed a touch worthy of novelist James Cain. But somewhere along the way, Wilder’s quickened pace and his taste for dialogue that hits like a peening hammer got lost in the translation. The film’s title card appears at the midway mark, replacing the unchronologically dealt narrative that tangles the first half with a silken, unbroken 59-minute parting take. There is no room in Gan’s formally-assured, neo-noir universe for imprecise lighting or shaky-cam slothfulness. When 3D cameras were too bulky to bring into play, Gan recorded his dreamlike, faultlessly-executed money shot in 2D with a post-production stereoscopic bump-up. (Sadly, it journeys into town as a flatty.) As much as one may marvel at the execution, it too often calls to mind a gimmicky effect, the sort used to supplant storytelling. It’s a film one admires more than enjoys.
Length: 2 hours, 54 minutes